First time buyers guide to buying a house

Buying a house is a massive investment and getting it just slightly wrong can be costly. Unless you have big savings, chances are you’re going to have to get a mortgage – a loan for buying a house. A mortgage is secured against the property which means; if you can’t meet the repayments the lender may repossess it and sell it to get their money back.

When it comes to finding a mortgage you have several options; mortgage brokers, individual banks or searching online. Again it’s important to research all of them.

Put in an offer

Once you have found the place you want, you will need to make an offer for it. Usually this is done through an estate agent. You can do this without having an agreement in principle in place from your mortgage lender, but having one means that your offer is more likely to be accepted. If the seller agrees to the offer, then the buying process can begin. It is worth noting that you won’t be obliged to go through with the deal if there is a problem with the survey or the sale contract.

The paperwork

You will need to find a solicitor or licenced conveyancer to take care of all the legal aspects of the property sale. They will also check for any planning or local issues that may affect the property’s value in future.

Arrange a survey

A surveyor assesses the property for any potential problems. Your lender will also insist on getting the property valued to check that it’s worth the asking price. There are three types of surveys you can choose from;

Condition report – the cheapest and most basic survey, it tends to be used on conventional homes or new builds. It doesn’t include a valuation or investigate possible future repairs.

Home buyer report – more expensive and thorough, this examines both the inside and outside of the property and includes additional valuation.

Building or structural survey – the most comprehensive option, this is more suited to older or unusual properties like converted barns

​​If the survey throws up any problems the surveyor will usually give you an idea of how much they would cost to fix. Often, in this case, people renegotiate the sale price with the seller; sometimes people pull out of the deal altogether.

Exchanging Contracts

The seller’s solicitor drafts the contracts and usually this is passed back and forth between the seller’s and buyer’s solicitors establishing all the facts. Once the solicitors are happy with the contract, it will need to be signed and exchanged with the seller. At this stage you will need to pay the deposit which is a percentage of the total price. Once this happens the buyer and seller are committed to the sale and cannot withdraw. Pulling out of the deal means you would almost definitely lose your deposit.


This is where the property actually becomes yours. You get the keys and the deeds. Be aware there are some bills to pay, but these should have been outlined to you at the start by your solicitor. At the start, when you are comparing quotes from solicitors you should find out whether each quote includes all of the following fees or not, so that you are comparing the cost of the legal fee only and can make the right choice.

  • The remaining cost of the property. This transferred from your mortgage lender to your legal representative and then to the sellers representative.
  • Your solicitor’s fee
  • Stamp duty (a government tax). The costs are laid out in our conveyancing calculator and the payments will be arranged by your solicitor

From start to finish you can expect the whole process to take around 8-12 weeks from offer to completion but this can vary depending on the complexities of the property, mortgage providers and the Solicitors involved.

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